Opposite of left-handed
It seems like a trick question:
Zuǒpiězi de fǎnyìcí shì shénme?
What’s the opposite of left-handed?
The 21st Century Dictionary from China Renmin University Press dutifully offers definitions of “right-handed”:
1. 右手的 — “of the right hand”
2. 惯于使用右手的 — “accustomed to using the right hand”
3. 用右手做的 — “uses right hand to do/make”
But the phrasal definitions seem to indicate explanation, more than any standard oppositional term. And with my usual informants here in Beijing, quizzing the “opposite of left-handed” question has yielded nothing but quizzical looks and comments like, “uh, Idunno. ‘normal’?” I’m curious to hear what other Chinese say.
If it holds that there is no standard opposite, I wonder if there’s a relationship to the “pirated / not pirated” book question we discussed on Sinoglot before. The hypothesis would go something like this:
Language X will tend to have a standard pair of opposites, A and B, when both A and B are reasonably common.
To go back to “pirated” for a moment, what I was struck by in that case was that Mandarin had a standard opposite for “pirated book” and “genuine book” (盗版 dàobǎn, 正版 zhèngbǎn respectively) while English, I claimed, lacked a standard pair of opposites. By the above hypothesis, the reason would be that the pirating of books is simply not common enough to have warranted creation of the pair.
Now regarding right/left-handed: the China that I’m familiar with does not embrace left-handedness. Just the other day, my daughter was telling me about a second-grade classmate who claimed the reason his handwriting was so bad is that he used to write with his left hand but his parents had made him switch to the right. And in my own daily life I very rarely come across lefties.
Consequently, might it be that right-handedness — or at least, using the right hand — is so common that it simply hasn’t warranted having its own word?